Question: How do I overcome laziness and apply myself creatively?
FROM : Anonymous (via Ask TCI on our homepage)
Q: I love the arts, and love the odd times when I do creative things myself, but I’m really shit at actually starting and learning and sticking to anything. How do I pursue a creative interest when it feels like I have to force it because I’m a 24/7 lazy bastard?
Editor’s Note: This week’s Ask TCI column is being answered in a role-playing style by Steven Phillips-Horst and Eric Schwartau. Steven and Eric are the duo behind Talk Hole, the subversive, art-adjacent “comedy brand,” who host a monthly stand-up/variety show in New York.
Steven: First of all, “I’m really shit?”
You sound British, which is going to be huge for you. We live in an age of identity, so don’t be afraid to push that as far as it can go. Put a Union Jack watermark on your Twitter avi, sign every email “cheers,” etc. Perhaps the rest will flow easily from there.
Second of all, your question seems to be concerned with actually making something (“art?” “work?” “things?”) and not just succeeding/getting attention for it. So in that respect, you’re already in a zen-like state of maturity, far ahead of the vast majority of “working artists,” myself included. If I was only concerned with simply making stuff, I likely would have produced a body of work 10x as voluminous and honest as my output to date. So in that regard, well on you, mate!
Eric: It’s interesting you say he's concerned with actually making something. I don't see him mention "making" once. "Pursuing," yes. "Doing creative things," yes. "Starting," yes. "Learning," yes. "Sticking," yes. Steven, your answer makes it seem like you’re projecting your own insecurities about the size of your own… body of work. Either way, you were self-deprecating enough in your response for all your shortcomings to be considered excusable.
But in this exchange, we’ve already exposed our first lesson: self-awareness is key. Get to know yourself—that's going to really help flush out your artist bio and statement, which I would suggest preparing well in advance of any art-making. Think of it as a will, even.
A will? Eric, not everyone wants to die ASAP. I know that as a gay man, you possess a rather potent “death drive,” but let’s just assume this subject of the Crown does, in fact, want to live. Also, I’m not sure why you think this person is a he. Stop criticizing me for two seconds and tell them what they need to know.
Dear British person,
For starters, you should stop referring to yourself as a “lazy bastard.” And 24/7? I mean, people are supposed to be asleep for a third of their lives. That knocks out eight hours from the day right there. Take it easy, partner.
Now, here’s a thought: what if you just happen to “love the arts?” Maybe that means you simply enjoy going to the opera or… reading a magazine. These are important personality traits you should continue to cultivate. But your vague language suggests that perhaps you aren’t that passionate about any artistic pursuit in particular.
Where’s your fire? Who makes you angry? What’s your trauma? Art is a cry for help/attention.
And why is it that you can’t “start” the process? Are you worried you won’t finish? If so, know that you can always find someone to help with that—an artistic partnership can offer motivation, competition… emotional manipulation. But what concerns me is that you think you can’t even begin. In that, I hear someone who is diminishing themselves.
Let’s look at what you have done: you’ve submitted a question to a creative publication. You had to compose the question. Reframe it. Edit it. That’s the beginning of something. In fact, asking questions is the beginning of a lifelong contemporary art practice. If you’re asking how to start something—you already have.
Wow, Eric. What a barnburner. If I had a barn for every Straight Talk Express you gave some poor English bloke who works a 9-to-5… I wouldn’t have any barns. Because they would be burned. Down. To the cold, cold, Welsh ground. Catherine Zeta-Jones sends her best!
Well, well, well. Look what the cat dragged in. If it isn't a gay white male with a female celeb reference…
Indeed, and can you please remind the aforementioned feline to take HER shoes off before she comes in. I recently went to Japan and have become obsessed with their culture.
At this point, I would like to point out to our dear English Questioneer that what we’re doing in this response is riffing. We’re creating art simply by throwing caution to the wind and seeing where it leads. Does Steven’s recent, most likely fictional trip to Japan have anything to do with your question? Simply put, yes—because we say it does.
S: Are you saying art is anything you say it is?
It’s almost as if art is two things, really: both making something and calling yourself a maker. Doing something and calling yourself a doer. Arting something and calling yourself an artist. You need both.
It's a self-fulfilling prophecy… and a branding strategy.
I think this person has asked us a genuine, vulnerable question and we’ve used the opportunity to prattle on indulgently without offering any real help.
Being indulgent in the face of real human need is art. We are leading by example… by making presumptions, championing and reaffirming our own voices, sowing doubt in political systems, and then vanishing into our own *separate* third-floor, two-bedroom apartments… leaving a power vacuum of empty space to be filled by more sinister operators.
I respectfully disagree and am changing my entire position.
Dear British person—I think you should either, a) ask someone to teach you how to use Photoshop or play piano or fire up a kiln or whatever your passion could be, so that you feel more confident about your skillset (everything is a muscle and everything can be worked out! I recently took an improv class because I was feeling blocked in my career and have found my creative juices flowing much more easily even outside of class, from writing, to comedy, to performance—simply by having been forced to play icebreakers with random regional theatre actors); b) start a private blog no one can see so you can start putting up your little essays/poems/short films/comics/storyboards for fashion editorials, at least just for yourself, so you can get over the hump of embarrassment; c) tell at least one person you’re an artist and will be showing your work soon, so then you’ll have to make something lest you be publicly shamed by your friend for not doing it.
Sorry, I got bored. What were you saying?
Umm, I’m busy [goes back to checking phone.]